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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TeaCuppa Ming Cong Wuyi

Now I've talked with many people as Ming Cong can mean any well known Wuyi Oolong or be short for Si Da Ming Cong, which are the for famous Wuyi tea bushes.

One thing I did notice is this bag seemed to have alot of very large leaves, and its probably been slightly aged, like alot of people say wuyi's should be, as there is no powerful roasted aroma.

1: Boiling, 30 seconds.
The nose of this one starts off as lightly toasted almonds, with a buttery toffee like note to it bringing forth a sweetness. I think I catch a bit of plum, but there is just a general smell letting you know it was at one time charcoal roasted.

Definite plum spread on burnt toast, with the finish dry almost burnt toast, with a slight hint of a fruity sweetness for a fleeting bit. The palate is interesting in the fact that its mellow but powerful at the same time, there is a decent amount there to intrique you, but nothing outrageous.

2: Boiling, 30 seconds
The nose is lighter, and fruitier with perhaps hints of tropical fruits, such as mango.

Its passive slight hint of tannins, and perhaps a chocolate note, and the finish this time is much more subdued, with just the flavor of a hint of roasting.

3: Boiling, 45 seconds

The nose is much sweeter and fruitier still, almost flowery and honey like now.

This seems to be mostly in the finish, its got a sweetness and light toast finish, but on the palate it seems to just be watery that coats better. Its almost like it gave up everything it had really quickly. And as a sign of that the color has been getting lighter and lighter each brew.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How to Fly (an essay)

I am a westerner, so in theory when I think tea, it is in a bag, and steeped for multiple minutes. But through the help of others I have left the valleys and slowly started ascending the slopes of tea knowledge. One step at a time, slowly and surely, moving from bagged tea to loose leaf. But it seems everyone hits a crossroad on their first journey as it is incredibly difficult to climb many mountains at once. So in the ascension of the mountain of tea knowledge, towards the bottom there are many forks in the road and these are things you should consider thoroughly before choosing which peak to ascend. Now the most amazing thing about these mountains is they very well might have no top, and in saying that I know there are many on elevations I could only dream of ascending to, but alas, I'm trying and that is what matters. Now I may be rather recently started on this journey, but I have also seen and helped others just starting their journey and too many people discover tea, and say I want to learn more about Tea in an all inclusive sense, which while it might all be one plant, it is too broad a category to hope to be able to attack effectively. So my biggest piece of advice is to narrow down what you wish to learn about first, Should I embrace tea in the English, Indian, Chinese, or Japanese style. This choice might just affect the later portions of your tea life, as choosing one might make you less inclined to choose another later on. Well, being somewhat of a traditionalist in nature I chose Chinese.

When you choose to pursue tea in Chinese fashion you learn that there are certain tools you cannot do without, almost like in the English style it seems foolish not to have a Brown betty or bone china, in the Chinese style the gaiwan is king. Now I don't even think twice about the fact that my gaiwan is one-hundred milliliters in size. Though starting out it seemed way too small as I was used to making sixteen ounce cups of tea at a time. Even more amazingly a one-hundred milliliter gaiwan is not quite considered a one person brewing vessel either, it could very easily be spread up to four people.

After you get a gaiwan the whole world of Chinese tea is open up for exploration. Now personally after never being a huge fan of green tea, I was exploring Oolong and Pu-erh tea. Now both those teas can get rather expensive, but I've found since I was not a fan of the young green (sheng) Pu-erh, nor was I a huge fan of cooked/ ripe (shou) Pu-erh, and nearly all well aged Pu-erh tea's cost a fortune, I settled my sites on Oolongs where if you know where to buy, you can find great teas for an even better price.

So in the oolong world, you have roasted, unroasted, various levels of oxidation, and aged and non aged. There is plenty in the Oolong world to learn about, and to try and understand. My first major foray into oolongs was trying to make sense of Tie Guan Yin, which thankfully for me my various purchases left me with two green, a light to moderate roast, and a classic roast. But still at this point in time I was not all that far up the hill, but through the guidance of a friend, who introduced me into Chao Zhou style brewing with my classic roast.

To explain Chao Zhou style brewing to a westerner, it would most aptly be described as making espresso from tea. So I had a classic roast, which I was instructed to crush enough leaves to fill one-fourth of the bottom of the gaiwan, then fill the gaiwan to three-fourths full with the leaf. Then infuse the leaves for thirty seconds and produce identical subsequent infusions, though sadly usually only about four identical infusions come from this much leaf, but they are well worth it. The flavors were so complex, along with an amazingly pleasing aroma. But halfway through the second steeping, I was flying, now I've been over caffeinated before, but this was something else this was chaqi (the life energy in tea), and so much of it I was Teadrunk.

I came to appreciate the heavier roasted tea's, and shortly moved on to Wuyi Yancha's, which are known for being roasted. I've learned that with these the most knowledge about the tea can come from teasing it out by brewing it extra strong, in a Chao Zhou like style, just no crushing of the leaves. With this new method of brewing, I came to be able to make leaps and bounds further up the infinite mountain, almost as if I was flying off of it, and landing slightly further along the path.

The enjoyment of tea should always be a priority, and the ascension of the mountains of tea knowledge whether through flight or a slow and steady trek, should always be looked upon with eagerness as it best allows you to understand the tea you have. So pick the path you want to take and climb while always being open to new ideas. It just might flip your world upside down, allowing you to fly ever higher.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Experiments in Roasting Vol. 1

Alright, so maybe I'm bored, maybe I'm just trying to learn more about tea. But I've been somewhat craving a classic roast Ti guan yin, but all I had was this jade TGY that came from teacuppa today.

This also stems from the Aged TGY I reviewed earlier possibly needing a bit of re-roasting. Now there are places you can buy tea roasters, but I wanted to to a bit of a test to see if I really need to get one of the roasting machines.

I used a wok on the stove over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Checking it and stirring it every 5. I had a lid placed over the wok to keep in some of the heat, and create a more oven like situation.

Color of the brew is clear brown.

The roasting definitely comes out in the smell along with a raspberry smell. And something that doesn't quite smell right, that is very sour.

I don't quite know how to describe this, it has smooth beginning with an oily taste comming in after that, and the finish is a light toast, but there is this sourness in there which I'm not sure where its comming from and its not likeable at first, but the more I drink it the more I want it. Its more sweet and sour.

So if your daring try this way of roasting tea at home.

Edit: The awkard sour flavor dissipated for the second infusion perhaps it will also dissipate with time?

I am sending away a sample to a friend to see what he thinks, and saving enough for one more try, which I will do in a week.

TeaCuppa Aged TGY

According to teacuppa this Oolong has been kept in an airtight container for 5 years, and has not been re-roasted. But based on the color of the leaves and brew, there was assuredly a light to medium roast on them before being aged.

Quick rinse,

1: boiling 30 seconds

Nose: A nutty smell, combined with the plum of most aged oolongs. But a fresh smelling nose, some aged teas can start to smell muddy or earthy.

Palate: Assorted mixture of nuts, possibly most so walnuts. Hints of roasting, from a mild toast.

Finish: lingering nutty dryness in the center of the toungue, but other than that quite nice. There is a short wave of a fruitiness to it, but its fleeting.

2: Boiling 30 Seconds

Nose: More of the nuts and plum mixture. It reminds me of more a a trail mix, but only of nuts and fruits. A hint of a sour note, but balanced with a touch of sweetness.

Palate: Alot more sourness comes out, perhaps I should have steeped this for only 20 seconds.

Finish: Still the dry nutty flavor in the center of the toungue

3: Boiling 30 seconds

Nose: A more floral sweetness comes out in this infusion.

Palate: the walnut is definitely still there, but now its more of a roasted flavor.

Finish: Same

One of the great things for aged oolongs is they usually last for many infusions. And based on how much these leaves expanded, I'm guessing it was on the lighter side of the roasting scale, just enough to darken the leaves a bit.

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